GOOD A PLACE AS ANY TO BE PROVED right, the road to Wagga Wagga. Beneath me, the R1200GS BMW’s pistons beat out a reassuring thrum. The asphalt ahead curved up and down through rolling green meadows and swept past eucalyptus strands. Surprised flocks of sulfur-crested cockatoos took to wing, their ivory feathers catching the long rays of a setting sun.
LAST SUNDAY, ON A BRIGHT, FROSTY AUtumn morning, Barb and I sat in a café in the small town of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, drinking coffee and hovering over the steam. We were gripping our coffee mugs with both hands, in the fashion peculiar to chilled motorcyclists and torpedoed sailors who have just been rescued from the North Sea.
How DO YOU MAKE A BIG, POWERFUL motorcycle easy to ride? The obvious answer is that you allow the operator to decide exactly how “big” the bike should act at any moment. In other words, you make it accurately and predictably controllable.
Thank you for your Up Front column, “The remarkable Mr. Desmedt,” in the December issue. I never met Indian Larry, but I’ve been a fan of his visionary building style. He never lost sight of his motorcycles being machines, and the fact that they operate with cables and are held together with nuts and bolts.
Choosing pipes for your metric cruiser or Harley-Davidson just got a little bit tougher, thanks to those tube-benders at Cobra USA. The new Speedster, available in long (shown) or short versions, features nonbluing heat shields, chromed-billet end caps and a PowerPort crossover chamber said to give 2-into-i-type performance. To make pipe buying even more difficult for H-D Softail riders, there's also the just-released Swept Speedster with end pipes angled about 30 degrees up ward. Your choice, starting at $520.
Spoke Torque Wrench
Maintaining proper spoke tension is a great way to guarantee against premature wheel failure. Famed rimmaker Excel produces a spoke torque wrench that is adjustable over a 45 inch-pound (51.8 cm-kg) range, and comes with five heads in commonly used sizes. Priced at $110, the kit includes a handy storage case.
Digital Music Player
Take your MP3/WMA music files on the road with you. The $300 Road Tech Digital Music Player replaces the right hand-control clamp on any late-model Harley-Davidson Big Twin and plugs into the auxiliary input of an original-equipment fairing-mounted radio or riser-mount Road Tech radio. Hours of music can he stored on the removable 64MB memory card, while large, backlit buttons make for easy use, even while wearing gloves.
Here's a gotta-have-it product for touring riders. Great at the beach, campsite or the races, the $119 Original Touring Chair is lightweight and portable with comfort and beauty not found in other designs. Manufactured from polyurethanecoated hardwoods and aluminum and featuring stainless-steel hardware, it breaks down to 22 inches in length and 4x6 inches in diameter. Fully assembled, it will hold up to 350 pounds. Choose from green, black, burgundy or navy. Kermit Chair Company, 5233 Pine Hill Rd., Nashville, TN 37221; 888/729-9836; www.kermitchair.com
What price peace of mind? Put an end to fears of bike theft with the latest ultracompact, two-way FM paging system from Scorpio, the $299 SR-i500. Among the multitude of standard features: a programmable multi-tone siren, battery safeguard with "sleep" mode, ignition sensor, light-flasher, in-range display, remote panic and selectable auto/manual arming. The equally long list of options includes factory-style connectors for a noninvasive installation. Aritronix Ltd., 14435 N. Scottsdale Rd. #500, Scottsdale, AZ 85254; 480/951-1109; www.scorpioalarms.com
Vemar VSR Black Carbon Helmet
Intersport Fashions West has a new name-Fairchild Sports-and some exciting new products, too. The latest offering from Italian manufacturer Vemar is the VSR Black Carbon helmet, made from-you guessed it-a black carbon-fiber weave. Touted as the lightest lid on the market, the VSR-BC nonetheless meets DOT and international racing standards, and does so with an innovative Kilma System EPS lining that features dual-density inserts and deep channeling for maximum airflow. It’s offered in sizes XS-XXL for $900. Fairchild Sports, 15602 Mosher Ave., Tustin, CA 92780; 714/258-2120; www.fairchildsports.com
Hooker-every truck bed
Every bed needs a Hooker-every truck bed, A that is. This simple, rubber-backed, extruded-aluminum device allows users to add multiple, removable tiedown points anywhere along the sides of a standard pickup bed without making any modifications to the truck itself. A set of four retails for $30. Cardon, Inc., 4088 Hyland Rd., Jeannette, PA 15644; 724/744-1322; www.thehooker.biz
Ram-air intake for a Harley? Well, yes, sort of. Carl’s Speed Shop is now offering a forward-pointing air-cleaner assembly that **Úp bolts up to H-Ds equipped either with the OE Delphi fuel-injection system or an S&S “E” or “G” carburetor. The highly polished billet RamAir housing makes a 90-degree turn to aim a K&N high-capacity filter element directly to the front. With the filter and its billet end cap in place, however, the system provides little ram effect; the housing’s large, 31/4-inch-diameter air horn can only scoop up onrushing air when the element is removed-a common strategy for racing but less than ideal for all-around street work. Cool-looking kit, though. The setup lists for $369 and comes complete with a chromed cylinder-head breather vent and all the required hoses, gaskets and brackets. Carl’s Speed Shop, 390 N. Beach St., Daytona Beach, FL 32114; 386/258-3777; www.carlsspeedshop.com
IS THERE NO END TO THE number of legendary Italian motorcycle marques that can be brought back from the dead? MV Agusta, Mondial, Benelli...the list goes on. And now we can add Moto Morini. At presstime, Moto Morini was hard at work putting the final touches on its first new model in a decade-a stylish naked bike powered by an 1180cc V-Twin engine-for its debut at the Bologna Motor Show.
Like green shoots poking out after a long, cold winter of choppers falling from the sky, America’s sportbike-constructing potential is trying to reestablish itself. First it was Fisher’s inline-Four, then the MotoCzysz C1 V-Four and now Roehr Motorcycle Company’s Rv1000 V-Twin.
No, seriously. As part of a fundraising event honoring Ronald McDonald House Charities Awards of Excellence recipients Dr. Paul Farmer and Danny Glover (receiving a $100,000 granito be donated to the children’s charity of their choice) and Wendy and Rick Lommen (who get a $50,000 grant for theirs), good old Ronald McDonald busted large riding a cruiser.
OFF-ROAD RACING legend Richard Sainct was killed while competing in the Pharaohs Rally in Egypt last September. The 34-year-old Frenchman won the Dakar Rally three times, in 1999, 2000 and 2003, and last year finished as runner-up to arch rival Nani Roma of Italy.
KTM has a new 250cc four-stroke with which to take on the Japanese in the 125cc motocross class. Based on the prototype that 20-year-old New Zealander Ben Townley rode to the 2004 MX2 World Championship, the 250 SXF boasts a dohc cylinder head, its four valves opened via Formula 1-style finger followers and shim-over-bucket tappets.
Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it even a motorcycle? Hate to rail on the previous generation, but man, what was the art department smoking when they picked this issue’s cover photo? We’re all for the blurred-background speed shot, but not when the foreground is blurred, too!
VEHICLE MAKERS ALLOcate R&D funds to contingencies like hydrogen fuel cells because it’s good business to be ready. They do it also because it earns them “green points” in public relations. Honda currently is showing a scooter powered by its new “FC Stack” fuel cell, calling it an R&D project.
Just when we thought the Orange County Choppers crew couldn't possibly be more overexposed, there they were again, this time popping up in the Sam's Club Holiday Gift Guide. There it said one lucky buyer could purchase a "fantasy package" that included a one-of-a-kind 0CC "theme bike," plus a two-night stay in New York City with first-class airfare, luxury hotel accommodations and a limousine ride to Rock Tavern to meet the Teutuls and Company and see their new prized possession in person.
DOWN: To cancer, for taking the life of Ray Ryan, founder and publishing editor of Australia’s VMX magazine. One of the leading lights in the worldwide vintage motocross movement, Ryan helped launch Australasian Dirt Bike magazine in 1975 and started VMX in 1998.
"A GAVE FLOWER, sleeps beside me, drivin’ on,” Marillion’s Steve Hogarth sang in the earphones inside my helmet. “Nevada’s burning, Phoenix rising, drivin’on...” Maybe not the most appropriate lyrics to be listening to while riding Moto Guzzi’s latest cruiser, the Nevada 750, but something did smell kind of hot.
Valentino Rossi proves there's more to winning races than horsepower
VALENTINO Rossi is MOTOGP WORLD Champion, switching to Yamaha at the end of the 2003 season after winning one 500cc world title and two MotoGP titles for Honda. His rise to greatness has been both rapid and careful-an interesting combination.
There is no way to pick the 10 greatest roadracers of all time. How can I leave out so many great names? What about Jimmy Guthrie? Or Freddie Spencer? Or Mick Doohan? Shall we list a top 100? The best I can hope for is to pick names that personify eras and let it be understood that racing is a contest among many greats.
Three-time 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts pulled out all the stops to keep international bike racing alive in America, even going so far as to fork out millions of his own dollars to promote the 1993 and ’94 U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.
I WILL BECOME A MILlionaire this year, according to my latest Social Security statement. That's not to say I will make a million dollars this year, nor that I possess a million dollars, just that I’ve earned a million dollars in this lifetime.
IT BEGAN AS A SIMPLE PLAN: Replace the existing Yamaha YZF-R6’s conventional fork with a competition-capable inverted unit and call it a day. But like many basic homeimprovement projects, one change soon leads to another. The end result is often much more involved than one could have possibly imagined.
IS THE KTM 950 ADVENTURE A STREETbike or a dirtbike? That debate has been lighting up Internet forums ever since the Austrian adventure-tourer was introduced in 2003. Remember, many of this bike's owners are aggressive former GS riders who broke BMW rank and turned orange.
WESTBOUND ON Interstate 8, somewhere between Austin, Texas, and Road Forks, Arizona, our man riding Victory’s new Hammer home from the press intro pulled onto the highway from a gas stop just in front of two big Harleys. He set the needle on the legal limit and the Harleys caught up.
SOME THINGS DEFY LOGICAL EXPLANation. Black holes. Fast-moving lights in the nighttime sky. Donald Trump's hairdo. You can add to that list a device called the Motorcycle AirBoz, a free-spinning fan that fits into a motorcycle's airbox atop the air-filter element.
BOOTS ARE A LOT LIKE HUMAN BEINGS: They eventually wear out, and not all at once. In the case of roadrace-style footwear, toe sliders usually get the brunt of the abuse. In most cases, these little plastic add-ons are easily replaceable.
FINGER POINTING IS A FAVORITE HUMAN PASTIME. “Check out those weirdos,” you say about the DKW people as you roll up to the local hangout on your 1961 Zundapp Super Sabre 250. “Man, they’re a different breed.” So a couple of years ago, not long after I’d finished washing off the cylinder head from my Ducati 350cc Single in the bathroom sink at the office, a press kit arrived for The Flying Circus, a group of Portland, Oregon, vintage racers who created their own class-within-a-class based around the pre-1968 Honda CB/CL160 Twin.
Supermoto didn’t bust into the mainstream-where the money is-overnight. There have been ups and downs, and earning a spot in the X-Games, the new-wave Olympics, certainly paid big dividends. The bottom line, though, is that a thorough description of the AMA’s newest two-wheel discipline no longer has to be the lead to every story about the sport.
I recently bought a 1981 Honda CBX and have only been able to get 12 mpg with it. I know that it’s old and has six cylinders, but should I expect better mileage than that? I purchased it to economize, what with the rising price of fuel, but I thought it would get more than 12 mpg.